Arrests reported -- but not confirmed -- in Michael Phelps bong case
A television station in Columbia, S.C., is reporting that local law enforcement officials have made eight arrests in connection with a house party where Olympian Michael Phelps' photo may have been taken with a marijuana bong in his hands. Seven of the arrests were for drug possession and the eighth was for drug distribution, according to the WIS-TV (Channel 10) report.
WIS reporter Jack Kuenzie also reported that the bong's owner had offered the device for sale on EBay for as much as $100,000. Kuenzie said that the Sheriff's Department now has the device.
But the Richland County Sheriff's Department earlier this morning declined to say whether it had made arrests or confirm the local television station's report.
"The reporter who released that story is claiming that he has sources, but we're not the source of that information," said Lt. Chris Cowan, the department's public information officer. "We're not releasing any additional information. We are investigating, and if we determine that illegal activity has occurred, we will bring charges."
And as for the bong that reportedly was being offered online? "I don't know where he got that information," Cowan said. "He didn't get it from us, and I don't know that to be true."
On Monday, a newspaper in Columbia published a story that attempted to piece together how the now-infamous photo ended up in a British tabloid.
The State's story didn't manage to do that. But it did place Phelps inside the house where, according to the television station's report, the sheriff's investigation led to eight arrests.
The newspaper story quotes sources (named and unnamed) who described a party that went on inside the house where the cellphone photo could have been taken early in November:
Crisp bills lay on the Ping-Pong table. But the players crowded around weren’t using paddles.
The game that Monday night in November was high-stakes “beer pong,” a drinking game in which players lob Ping-Pong balls into plastic cups.
Michael Phelps was betting big -- and losing.
"I saw Phelps pull out a roll, a bank-wrapped $2,000,” said Michael Whitworth, who had been invited to a house near Five Points after his band played a show at 5 Points Pub (now Sudworks Taphouse).
“He said, ‘I’ll match the $2,000,’ ” Whitworth continued, referring to Phelps. “Good ol’ Phelpsie lost it too.”
And, as for the picture:
The photo that got Phelps, 23, in trouble could have been taken by any of the dozens of partyers at the house that night -- or on other nights when Phelps was in Columbia the first week of November.
The story notes that those who attended the party were asked on entering the house to respect Phelps' privacy and not take photographs.
-- Greg Johnson
Photo: Michael Phelps answers questions from reporters before training at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Baltimore on Feb. 6. Credit: Gail Burton / Associated Press